Bakersfield has been named the least healthy city in California, despite the state’s reputation for its sunny weather, cultural diversity, and healthy lifestyle choices. This designation comes from a report by 24/7 Wall St. that identified the city’s lack of healthy food options, low physical activity levels, and high rates of obesity and smoking as contributing factors to its poor health outcomes. Despite this, California as a whole continues to prioritize healthy living and wellness initiatives.
What makes Bakersfield unhealthy?
With a population of around 389,000 residents, Bakersfield is the ninth-largest city in California and is situated in Kern County at the southern tip of the San Joaquin Valley. However, despite its size, the city struggles with some of the most dismal health indicators in both the state and the nation.
According to 24/7 Wall St., Bakersfield’s health-related factors fall short in several ways, including air quality, obesity rates, smoking prevalence, physical activity levels, access to healthcare, and premature mortality. The city’s health challenges are highlighted by some staggering statistics.
Bakersfield has been identified as the city with the highest annual average concentration of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the United States, with a measurement of 18.2 micrograms per cubic meter. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) categorizes levels exceeding 12 micrograms per cubic meter as unhealthy.
With an obesity rate of 35.7%, the city is struggling to tackle this issue, which is higher than the state’s average of 25.8% and the national average of 28.8%.
The smoking rate in Bakersfield stands at 16.4%, which is higher than both the state average of 11.2% and the national average of 15.5%. The city is facing a significant challenge to reduce smoking among its residents.
Bakersfield has a high prevalence of physical inactivity with a rate of 25.9%, which is higher than both the state average of 16.9% and the national average of 22.4%. This indicates that a significant number of individuals in Bakersfield are not engaging in physical activity, which can have negative consequences on their overall health and well-being.
According to recent statistics, the ratio of primary care physicians to residents in the city is 1,389:1, which is below the state average of 1,280:1 and the national average of 1,263:1.
The premature death rate in Bakersfield is higher than both the state and national averages, with 432.4 deaths per 100,000 residents compared to the state average of 309.9 and the national average of 333.7.
What are the consequences of being unhealthy?
Poor health choices can have serious consequences for both individuals and entire communities. Unhealthy lifestyles can lead to a range of negative effects, such as:
1.) Chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and respiratory illnesses can become more prevalent due to heightened susceptibility.
2.) The quality of life can suffer significantly due to the negative impact of an injury or illness, resulting in lower self-esteem, decreased productivity, reduced happiness, and fewer social interactions.
3.) The cost of healthcare is continuously increasing, resulting in higher insurance premiums, co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses for individuals.
4.) Economic growth is hindered, resulting in lower income levels, limited employment opportunities, reduced tax revenue, and decreased investment prospects.
How can Bakersfield become healthier?
Improving one’s health can be a daunting task, but it is definitely achievable. Bakersfield has a number of options available to help boost its overall health status.
1.) To reduce air pollution, it is essential to curb emissions from vehicles, industries, and power plants. Additionally, improving public transportation and cycling infrastructure can help to mitigate pollution. Planting more greenery is also an effective way to combat air pollution. It is crucial to enforce air quality standards to ensure that the air we breathe is clean and healthy.
2.) Expanding access to fresh fruits and vegetables, reducing consumption of processed foods and sugary beverages, offering nutrition education and counseling, and supporting local farmers and food banks are some of the ways to promote healthy eating habits.
3.) Foster a culture of wellness by promoting physical activity through the creation of more parks and trails. Additionally, provide free or low-cost fitness classes and programs as well as incentives for walking and biking.
4.) To enhance healthcare accessibility, there is a need to increase the number of primary care physicians and specialists, as well as reduce barriers to health insurance and services. Additionally, preventive care and screenings should be made available, and social determinants of health must be addressed.
To sum up, Bakersfield is currently labeled as California’s unhealthiest city by 24/7 Wall St. due to various challenges like insufficient healthcare access, high obesity rates, smoking prevalence, poor air quality, inadequate physical activity, and elevated premature mortality. Nevertheless, by implementing comprehensive measures that aim to tackle these issues, Bakersfield can enhance the well-being of its people, lower healthcare expenses, and boost economic development.